Everyone likes that feeling of energy, alertness and happiness after a refreshing full night of sleep. Unfortunately, many of us underestimate how important sleep is to our overall wellbeing.
Poor sleep affects individuals across all age groups, and can manifest itself in multiple ways. Whether it’s a toddler throwing a tantrum, an adolescent with hyperactivity or other behavioral issues, or a high school or college student with poor academics– lack of sleep is often to blame.
In adults, lack of sleep can be linked to depression, diminished work performance, poor peer and family relationships and an increased risk for obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and adverse cardiovascular health.
In recent years, the surge in digital and social media activities and their corresponding “addictions” has resulted in more and more people suffering from poor sleep. With stress factors like shift work, rush hour traffic, job and academic stress, and unending social obligations, we’re more sleep deprived as a society than ever before. In fact, altered sleep habits and irregular sleep wake cycles have led to chronic sleep deprivation – less than six hours per night – for millions of Americans.
In general, if you’re sleep deprived, you’ll start to notice brain fogginess that results in unclear thinking and the inability to concentrate and remain in the moment. More specifically, poor sleep:
· Slows down your thought processes: Sleep deprivation causes lower alertness and concentration. This makes it harder to focus and pay attention, leading to confusion. It is also harder to complete tasks that require logical reasoning or complex thought.
· Impairs memory: Research suggests that sleep helps strengthen the nerve connections that make our memories. Without enough sleep, your brain has a harder time making short-term memories. This often leads to forgetfulness.
· Makes learning harder: A sleep-deprived brain has trouble focusing, which makes it harder to pick up new information. It also affects your memory, which is essential to learning and retaining new information.
· Slows down reaction times: This is one of the most dangerous side effects of a sleep deficit. Your brain and nervous system has a hard time reacting to the world around you when you haven’t had enough sleep.
It’s important to understand that physical and brain functions are restored by sleep. Just like your cell phone, tablet or laptop need to be fully charged to function properly, so does your brain. And sleep is your brain’s charging device, which allows you to be fully present at work, with your family at home, or out with friends.
To improve your chances for a good night’s sleep there are some simple things you can do. Creating a routine that starts about an hour before bedtime to help you wind down can be very effective. To help create a sleep-friendly routine and environment:
· Avoid caffeine and vigorous exercise within six hours of sleep
· Keep electronics out of the bedroom
· Silence or turn off your cell phone when going to bed
· Make sure your room temperature isn’t too warm or cold
· If you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed, get up and read – return to bed only when sleepy
If you’re expecting a sleep schedule change – for example, due to travel or annual time changes – start moving your bedtime routine up or back about 10 or 15 minutes per night at least one week in advance. These slow changes help your body adjust over time, which can make the final change less of a shock to your system.
If you’re not enjoying good sleep, consider talking with your doctor or a sleep specialist to help get you on track. It could create a needed boost to both your mental and physical health, as well as help ensure that you remain in the moment and get the most out of your life journey.
Dr. Parmer is accepting new patients at his practice located at St. Anthony Shawnee Physicians Family Healthcare, 3204 Medical Park Drive, Shawnee. To schedule an appointment please call 405-878-6800.